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Technology and Fitness - Things are Changing and Fast

How many people utilize online trackers for health and fitness ? That was one of several questions posed to me by "Steve", an IHRSA member, as part of IHRSA's "Ask an industry leader program". Here is his question in its entirety:

“How many people use online trackers/health social networks for health? Are there any sites you know of? Any research in this area? Do other health clubs recommend this to customers?”

For those of you who follow me you've read my prior posts on wireless devices and wellness in addition to technology's impact on the future of the fitness industry, which touches on this and other topics. Well developed research is not readily available to the general public but there are some interesting metrics to consider when asking the question. During 2009 the Nike+ Human Race, participants ran a combined total of 802,863 miles and during the inaugural 2008 Nike+ Human Race  more than 750,000 runners participated in the event, which took place in more than 24 cities worldwide. Over 2 million users rely on the Nike Plus web site (read Wired's article "The Nike Experiment. How the Shoe Giant Unleashed the Power of Personal Metrics"). That should give you an idea. Recently Adidas joined the rank with an even more powerful solution Micoach. There are many others.

The trend in fitness and wellness towards online tracking with personal and mobile devices being integrated continues. Mobility in general is exploding with over 4 billion devices growin to nearly 15 Bilion devices attached to the Internet in the next four years with (mobile smart phones in the US will reach 150 million users in 2011) . In fitness and wellness the category has become better defined recently. On one hand there are the simple calorie-counters, like Philips DirectLife and fitbit. More complicated devices, like Polar's FT80 and others strap onto your wrist like a small computer. Other advanced systems like Progio have special devices that work with heart rate technologies to enable tracking and deliver educational and workout content. In the middle are devices for casual marathoners: the Nike+ iPod system, and now Adidas' latest mid-range system.

Social media is connected to many of these solutions, with Nike Plus for example enabling people to connect, compete and share their performance through an online platform.

Outside of the integrated solutions like Nike Plus or Adidas' new system,, and other online soutions provide workout, calorie counting and other tools and solutions to help people get fit. Many of these solutions are offered under a "freemium" model with premium upgrades available.

Interestingly many health clubs do not integrate these online offerings, although this is changing and some like  Vitabot which provides nutritional tools online work with health clubs to deliver nutritional online solutions to their members. Good life fitness, a successful fitness chain based in Canada offers at home fitness solutions to deliver workout content online and provide some basic tracking and motivation. Major chains like 24 hour fitness and lifetime among others are in the midst of testing and or introducing integrate online offerings as well. Expect these trends to continue and watch this video  (below) on the advancement of tracking in medicine.

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Reader Comments (2)


Interesting article. We ourselves have started to delve into activity tracking and reward based systems, except our target market is kids. I wanted to tell you about something we have been working on in hopes that it will be part of the solution to fighting childhood obesity. We have partnered with Humana Health to develop a program called Active GamePlay; which will work with Humana’s Active Games and is designed to encourage children to lead an active lifestyle through fun, interactive, online games.

Humana’s Active Games is a perfect example of a company harnessing the power of technology and using it to promote the benefits of exercising. With the power of our Hi Tech activity monitors we will be able to track the physical steps of a student within a day; in turn that student will be rewarded for their steps through our online games. Administrators and Educators can track, measure and assess the participants online through automatic reporting (no self reporting needed). Not only that but sponsors can set-up visual aides at their local offices that shows the students overall activity, and how they are supporting it by being a part of the movement to keeping kids healthy.

We not only reward for individual steps, but we also build team aspects into it by having groups of individuals (i.e. classes, fitness groups, after school programs, etc.) compete against one another in the game. So one school could compete against another all the way on the other side of the country!

• Tracking and Monitoring among participants.
• Engaging game play keeps the motivation alive.
• Monitoring of the participating groups with online web access, for sponsors, etc.

A perfect example of one of these games is The Horsepower Challenge, which with hundreds of millions of steps logged so far, is an online game designed especially for kids that is powered by real-world activity with a virtual race around the planet. This challenge has infinite benefits in getting students moving!

Our vision is for children to understand that being physically active is not just something they do in a Physical Education class, but something you can do every day. We want them to see that little things like walking to the bus stop, taking the long way through the hallways, and going on walks with their mom and dad can greatly impact the amount of steps and activity they may have in a given day. If you would like to know more about Humana’s Active Games please check out the Horsepower Challenge Website itself. I look forward to hearing from you and hope we can work together to raise students activity level across the country!

October 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterParker Johnson

Wow. This is interesting beyond words. Thank you Bryan

April 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKristina Reilly

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